- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 25, 2016

YOUNGSTOWN, Pa. (AP) - They come in droves, cameras and smartphones in hand, to see Leslie Baum Rossi’s shrine to presidential candidate Donald Trump.

It’s hard to miss “the Trump House,” as visitors call the attraction near the village of Youngstown.

As soon as motorists veer off Route 30 onto Route 982, a massive “Trump 2016” sign on the corner of Rossi’s property can be seen before the house’s wrap-around red, white and blue paint job.

A steady stream of visitors - and journalists from around the world - have visited daily since Rossi painted the home prior to April’s primary and have made it an unofficial local headquarters for the Trump campaign.

By September, what once was a curiosity had become a downright tourist destination.

Rossi estimated that in the past month, more than 14,000 visitors - some from as far away as Texas - have stopped to take roadside photos or pull onto the grass for a closer look. Rossi invites visitors into her front room and hands out T-shirts, hats, pens and yard signs bearing Trump’s name and slogan.

Over the weekend, including a cold, rainy Saturday, 2,200 people signed a guest registry.

Rossi, a 46-year-old mother of eight, had to hire parking attendants to direct traffic into makeshift parking spaces outlined by spray paint in the yard. A volunteer staff handed out Trump gear, absentee ballot applications and other election information.

“We heard about it, and none of us were going home until we came here,” said Mary Gollmer of Erie, who was in town to attend a wedding.

She left the Trump House with an armful of swag.

On Sunday, the line of people waiting to pick up memorabilia stretched out the door and around the corner of the house.

“I passed the house a couple months ago, and my mom was here yesterday,” said Kimberly Contino of Hempfield. She said she stopped to pick up items to show off her support for Trump.

“And, of course, I love my country. I’m very patriotic,” Contino added.

Kathy Kline of North Huntingdon stopped by last month on her lunch break from nearby Arnold Palmer Regional Airport to get yard signs.

“I’m tickled to death to see the support for Trump in this area,” Kline said. “I want to get as many signs as I can.”

Danny Evans and his girlfriend, Christy Cunningham, live near New Castle in Lawrence County and read about the Trump House in an Ohio newspaper. While visiting Evans’ aunt and uncle in Unity, they had to see the place in person.

“The house is awesome,” said Cunningham, admiring the paint job. “I like the giant Donald, too. That’s cool.”

This summer, Rossi installed a 14-foot metal cutout of Trump in the yard. The $1,100 likeness, printed in several pieces at Greensburg’s Signs By Tomorrow, dwarfs visitors. They barely reaching his waist while posing with it. Some reach up to touch his hand.

Rossi shuffles a collection of business cards from foreign reporters, noting she’s been interviewed by publications in France, Denmark, Austria, Ireland and Germany. Some papers sent Washington-based correspondents on the 200-mile trek to the house.

Rossi beams as she explains how she was chosen as one of Trump’s top supporters in a piece by Die Welt, a German national daily newspaper.

“Europe’s really diggin’ it,” she said of her efforts.

Julie Glaser and her husband, Harry, of North Huntingdon took photos of themselves at the house, which has been featured in Time magazine and other national publications.

“We came out to support the candidate. We just had to see it,” Glaser said.

Karyssa Gault brought her 2-year-old daughter, Mia Mongell, from Connellsville.

“I kept seeing everyone talking about it on Facebook, so I came out to check it out,” Gault said.

Engaged couple Josh Dolton and Angie Bronson stopped at the house on a rare day off together. The Greensburg couple, both 35, bounded across the lawn hand-in-hand directly to the cutout.

“This is the closest I can get to a picture with Trump,” said Dolton.

“They did a great job,” Bronson said. “It doesn’t get any more American (than this).”

Sharon Tenerovich of New Alexandria said she and her husband, Larry, drove by the house, later stopped to see it, then came back a third time to pose with the Trump cutout.

“We came back to get our picture taken. The last time, we didn’t have the camera,” she said.

“You can’t find that in a lot of places - someone so dedicated,” Tenerovich said of Rossi.

Rossi, who buys, renovates and rents out buildings, said the Trump House came about organically as she came to admire the candidate and wanted to promote his campaign.

“I never set out to do this. It just happened,” she said. “I had never supported another candidate before.”

Rossi won’t disclose how much she has spent on the thousands of T-shirts, hats and other items. She accepts no money from visitors and has received no funding from political groups or the Trump campaign, she said.

Not every visitor is pro-Trump. While the few Hillary Clinton supporters have been respectful, Rossi said some cursing and contentious moments have erupted.

Last month, vandals damaged the Trump figure with some type of metal projectiles.

Rossi said she remains undeterred about being in the eye of a political storm.

Still, the Trump House’s days are numbered.

After Election Day on Nov. 8, another coat of paint will cover the flag motif. The Trump signs will come down. Then, the house will be renovated and rented out.

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Online:

https://bit.ly/2eCGNkx

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Information from: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, https://pghtrib.com

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